Ryan Dingle embraces transition from professional hockey to coaching at home
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Ryan Dingle moved across the world to play hockey. Now he’s back home to coach it.
“I grew up in Steamboat,” Dingle said. “I played my youth hockey here in town, and then I moved away, basically, just to pursue my dream of playing professional hockey.”
Dingle started his junior hockey career in the United States Hockey League for the Des Moines Buccaneers and the Tri-City Storm in Nebraska. He’d play at the University of Denver in college, winning an NCAA National Championship before signing with the Anaheim Ducks America Hockey league team and, later, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Dingle is now the head coach of Steamboat Wranglers Junior Hockey Club.
He spent seven seasons abroad in Europe, playing in Italy, England and Scotland before hanging up his skates.
“I always thought the next step in my life would be coaching,” Dingle said. “My wife and I have two little ones, a 1- and a 2-year-old, and I love growing up here. It’s a place where she and I want to raise our family. We thought this would be a great time as my career was coming to an end.”
But Dingle hadn’t stayed away for long. He’s spent every summer in Steamboat Springs since 2011 coaching his own Elite Hockey Training camp.
Dingle moved back to Steamboat permanently in April. Since then, he’s been consulting former teammate Gabe Gauthier about how to take on his first head-coaching job.
The two would reconnect on a weekend family vacation in Steamboat just before Dingle’s hire two months ago.
“That’s when we started talking about the possibilities, and then a phone call came two days ago that he got the job,” Gauthier said. “As a player, he was very passionate and very driven, and those attributes will reflect in the way that he coaches.”
Gauthier, now director of U8 to U18 hockey for the Foothills Flyers in Littleton, has been coaching for six years. He left the University of Denver to play for the LA Kings but stayed in touch with Dingle.
“It’s a big transition for any professional player deciding to hang up the skates,” Gauthier said. “What we talk about is, you have to learn to express the game and be able to communicate with these kids on a different level because they’re not at the professional ranks right now. It takes time, and it takes patience.”
Dingle already felt that transition in Italy, when he fell into an assistant coaching position for his team in Cortina while he was healing from a severe cut in 2012.
“That was interesting,” Dingle said. “When you’re in in the mix, you have your hands on the game. When you step back, you are the conductor. I remember feeling a little anxious on that side.”
Gauthier recalls a similar sentiment when he first started coaching youth hockey.
“I would be standing on the bench and going, ‘Well, that’s what I would’ve done,’ and seeing plays happen before they happen,” Gauthier said. “Now, it’s taking what we know and translating that to the kids for them to understand.”
But coaching kids is a challenge Dingle embraces wholeheartedly. He’s been watching kids grow through his summer program and also assumes command as director of player development for the Steamboat Stampede Youth Hockey Association.
“It’s a blend of both passions of mine: I love kids and love the game of ice hockey, and it was a no-brainer. I wanted to be a part of all age groups,” Dingle said. “No matter what level you are currently playing, the overall goal in coaching is to graduate players to the next step.”
That next step for the Wranglers, a junior hockey team of 20-year-old players, can be pivotal in their careers, like choosing a college. Dingle can relate to the trials of a young athlete with big dreams.
“I had a very successful junior career, I remember nothing but great memories of my time then,” Dingle said. “I’m so grateful to be a part of the stepping stone in these young men’s lives.”
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